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The Wordmaker

Synopsis

Logline:

The Wordmaker is a high-end crime drama exploring religious zealots, the blurred lines between dreams and reality and the dark corners of the human psyche.

Think Shutter Island meets Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief in an atmospheric dark mystery, set in the unexplored mystical world of Kabbalah studies.

Synopsis:

Complex family dynamics come to light when Dr. Ari Milus, a family man and a professor of sleep disorders, wakes up one night at a bar, with no memory of how he got there. He goes back to his old neighborhood in Jerusalem to consult with the doctor who treated his childhood parasomnia, but in the morning the doctor is found dead, and Dr. Milus is the prime suspect. A series of murders forces him to confront his troubled past within a religious sect, led by a charismatic and revered figure named “The Wordmaker” – a man who disappeared and whose actions led to the death of Dr. Milus’s mother.

Background Story:

When Dr. Ari Milus was a child, he was a victim of a messianic character called “The Wordmaker”, who led his community.

The Wordmaker was a megalomaniac rabbi who desperately wanted but failed to reach “The Prophecy”. He abused his position as a community leader and had an affair with a married woman, who had come to him with her husband for help in having children. Following this affair, the woman became pregnant and in order to legitimize his child, the Wordmaker came up with a concept called “The Repair”. In time, the Wordmaker convinced himself that what he did was right, that he was going in the same path as the biblical King David, who also had an affair with a married woman. When the truth of the affair came out and a scandal broke, the mother committed suicide and her husband left the community with their two boys – Ari and his brother Menashe.

A few years later, when the father and his teenage boys returned to the community, young Ari met young Sophie, who was being victimized by her father – the Wordmaker. Ari told his own father that their religious leader is a sex addict and was slapped in the face. When the Wordmaker recognized the danger young Ari posed for him, and also that he might be his own child, he manipulated him into thinking he saw nothing of Sophie’s abuse. In retaliation, Ari harmed the Wordmaker and couldn’t bear it, so he sunk into a coma and “slept” for 24 years. The doctors misdiagnosed him as being in a vegetative state but in fact, his mind continued to function.

From that moment on, he is in a liminal state of in-between, attuned to his surroundings, from which he builds his own world. His consciousness mixes with his made-up world and he casts himself as a doctor, based on his brother’s life, creating characters from conversations he overhears. Ari would never have woken up if it weren’t for the return of the Wordmaker and the series of murders that followed.

These murders trigger an investigation and lead the detective to Sophie (the Wordmaker’s daughter who was abused a child) as the prime suspect. The detective goes through the events of the past months with her and their conversation takes place in Ari’s hospital room. The detective is convinced Sophie is the murderer, because she has the strongest motive- her abuse as a child and the cover-up of those involved. Since she has recently returned to the neighborhood, he thinks she’s had her revenge at the people who helped keep hidden the truth of her abuse.

When Sophie and the detective speak, Ari hears them, and he can constantly be seen at the beginning or end of their conversation. In his imaginary world, Ari is a secular doctor treating sleep disorders. When his brother visits and tells him about a lecture he gave at a bar in Tel Aviv, Ari inserts this into his made-up memory.

The realization that the story is told from the point of view of Ari’s imaginary world, becomes gradually clearer as the characters in his world are revealed to be his caregivers, for instance, the bartender from Tel Aviv is actually his nurse and his wife is actually his sister-in-law.

 

Inspiration:

Ari’s story was inspired by the true story of Rom Houbens – a Belgian man, who was thought to be in a vegetative state for 23 years after a car accident left him paralyzed and apparently unconscious.  Tests run by the University of Liege’s Coma Science Group showed that his brain was active, and almost normal. He wasn’t in a vegetative state, but aware, and trapped silently in the prison of his ruined body. He saw his doctors and nurses as they visited him during their daily rounds, listened to the conversations of his caretaker, even heard his mother deliver him the news of his father’s death. But he could do nothing. He was unable to communicate with his doctors or family. He could not move his head or weep, he could only listen. Houbens later described how he had “dreamed himself away” and how he coped by meditating, telling his doctors how he travelled with his thoughts into the past, or into another existence altogether.

The character of The Wordmaker was inspired by the true story of Elior Hen – a local religious guru who manipulated and took control of one family, leading the parents to abuse their children with his strict teachings and twisted beliefs. In the end, the culprits were imprisoned and one of the children has been in a vegetative state since 2008.

The Wordmaker in the series molded his worldview as a Frankist, continuing a line of self-proclaimed false messiahs in the vein of Jacob Frank, who himself claimed to be the reincarnation of another self-proclaimed messiah – Sabbatai Zevi. The Wordmaker convinced himself that he can cross boundaries and be intimate with his daughter Sophie, to the point of incest. He became diabolical, believing “redemption lies in the sewers.”

The connection between dream and religion – Most of the prophets in the bible communicated via dreams. In the Gemara (an interpretation of the bible compiling what was passed on and debated orally for generations), it says that every dream is 1/60th of a prophecy. All of us dream, there’s no need to attend a place of worship in order to experience a prophecy. The Kabbalists say a dream is a message that if not interpreted, remains a sealed letter.

The Esthetics of dream and reality:

The series explores the point where reality mixes with the dream and asks the question if they hold the same meaning. The answer is yes. Our lives are comprised of our sense of reality. The things that happen in a dream, are of the same value to our sense of reality. Therefore, one is accountable, even to one’s dreams.

There were discussions whether to distinguish between the dream and reality planes, whether to add elements of the dreamscape such as jumps in place and time to Ari’s imaginary world, and the decision was made not to do that. The show flashes back to the past, and the whole story is told from Ari’s perspective, who turns out at the end to be an unreliable narrator.

For further inquiries

Hadas Mozes

Founder & Head Of International.
hadas@add-ca.com

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